Last August I was fortunate enough to create a phenomenal memory.
My girl was there and my wonderful Mother was there and all these other wonderful Mothers and their little Petunias and Ashlee... and Flowers.
Creator, artist, Mother, photographer, space holder, Ashlee Dean Wells passed through Reno on her amazing photography tour collecting, promoting, and working with Mothers for her 4th Trimester Bodies Project. Dean describes the purpose of her project as follows:
The project exists because humans, particularly women, are judged too crudely on the way we look and are often told we don’t measure up. Because no real person can compete with the tools in Photoshop and glossy magazine covers. And because parenthood is sacred and should be celebrated.
So basically holy shit this is amazing, right?
How could I pass up an opportunity to participate in something so needed, so revolutionary, so powerful?? So community? So body positive? So necessary??
Ashlee herself is a fierce artist and delicious soul. Well spoken and sincere, she welcomed all participants of the day to sit in an circle and open up. Mothers of all walks were there, Mothers of all struggles, denominations, stories, and paths and they all had this wild thing called 'childbirth' in common.
For those who can afford, the photos and time and session did cost an absolutely reasonable amount money. I applied for and was awarded a scholarship to participate. This alone blew my mind. The fact that there were gifted/donated spots in her photography session set aside for struggling Mothers.... endeared me right away to this woman and her art.
Participants were allowed to bring along a fellow helper to help wrangle child as necessary so naturally I brought my Mom. Considering that without her love and support there would be no We, I thought it was fitting. Plus, she's my main Mama, my buddy, my rock--she's in this story as it's happened AND being written.
So of course.
And share we did, each person and partner was welcomed to tell the tale of how their Motherhood came to be and it was enlightening and powerful. Birthing trauma, infant loss, marital struggles, family issues--we all had our share of weight. We all have our share of disappointments and triumphs when it comes to upgrading into Motherhood and to be able to sit in a safe, loving, and open space and share and support was priceless.
We all were struggling to fit in this new role of Mother emotionally and physically.
And that's why we were there.
To document, to prove, to witness, to see.
To be photographed, to be remembered, to embrace and support.
To love ourselves, love our bodies, and love our kiddos.
I'm very grateful for the opportunity to be able to participate. The photos came out phenomenal.
Keep an eye out for Ashlee and check her tour dates to see if she's coming to a city near you. Congratulations to her and Flowers on their newest addition xo
Click around on her website and donate.
When you’re a working artist, maternity leave doesn’t exist. Help a Mama out.
Below are links to Ashlee's magic--have a look yourself:
There is wine all over the house—in the garage, behind the bar, in the family room, upstairs, and in my closet. Bottles ranging from 1970somehing to 2012 yada ya. Every kind of red wine you can imagine.
(I drank the white, but, to be honest, there wasn’t much of it) My Dad collected? hoarded? wine for years and years until he retired, wanted more mobility? flexibility? space? and gave it all away.
I feel like I’ve seen some talk regarding Mommy/Wine culture as of late and... to that I say:
I think that applies across the board to all, always.
I was a bartender for many years—The Zephyr Lounge, Redrock Bar, Jub Jub’s Thirst Parlor, all over Reno (and Black Rock City) with the oddball gig other places. I slang the hooch, listened to the drunks, laughed til the wee hours, and hung over many mornings. I stood and watched youngsters and old farts alike pound PBR, snort booger sugar, and chain smoke into friendships, arguments, and tomorrow’s. I dated bassists, door guys, coworkers, and good tippers. I danced to the jukebox, cheers’d the newlyweds, and tossed shitheads out the door. It was a great job and it taught me a lot about the human dynamic, the human condition, and choices along with their consequences.
Those were my twenties and I lived them hard, year round.
These days the smell of whiskey makes me nauseous, I can’t even take a shot on my friend’s memorials.
These days the thought of being hungover sounds like a nightmare.
These days Tylenol is put to better use on joint pain and sleep deprivation headaches.
These days I can’t afford, literally cannot afford, to drink.
These days I don’t smoke.
These days my favorite bar is closed.
These days I’ve got Nugget and she’s more important than anything.
Sometimes I like to drink a heavy wine glass of red wine really fast just to feel less for twenty minutes,
Less sober, less controlled, less back pain, less poor.
Sometimes on around 11am some days it feels like the day has doubled itself in length and instead of cooking another baby friendly meal it’s easier for me to crack a lager. Just one. For calories and cuz I can.
Sometimes on my few “days off” baby I reach out to people to grab a drink cuz I am thrilled at the idea of being able to go park my car, get out of it alone, and enter the forbidden building within two minutes with only my purse.
Sometimes when I have ten bucks I’d rather put it in a pennies machine and pretend my life is different while I push the same insane buttons over and over and over.
Sometimes I feel like a bar is the only place where people talk to other people and I am so tired of talking to myself, I would rather sit alone on a stool in a crowd.
No fuckin’ judgies.
There’s a park by my house where it happened.
A year ago, more already.
Time flies when you don’t? can’t? won’t? look up.
Across one busy road where traffic halts for a stroller and down a small hill to the geese, pavement and rock encircle a lake. A lake with a park I remember playing at in first grade. A lake where I remember releasing my brothers pet turtles in the 90s when my mom got sick of their stench. When I was sixteen I was grounded for the summer and the only place I could run to was literally running around this mile stretch of lake and land. I never ran so much in my life—and me and my giant boobies and shin splints are not runners! Once or twice I saw my mom cruising, creepin hella slow around the lake in her red suburban, making sure I was where I said I would be.
There’s this little hillscape on the southwestern ish corner of the water where geese go to snack, crows to murder, and folks to contemplate both. Between sage brush and tree are metal benches, for view, for thought, and for privacy. The elderly feed critters, take rest, and birds seem to go out of their way to shit on these benches.
It was here last November where it happened.
I had gotten here early to collect myself and reread the notes I’d tried to memorize earlier. The ones about crucial conversations and listening with love and quieting defenses. I’d been lent this book and it resonated so deeply with me that I thought it was the answer to all our problems.... which at that moment, was me. All me.
I had gotten there early to smoke a cigarette.
Okay, fine, two. In secrecy and shame.
I made my way over to the green bench, the one facing north, the one half shaded and chilly.
I waited and rehearsed, imagined, and planned. I waited openly, with eagerness, with child and with faith.
It was cold and we were both wearing carhartts, but only I showed up to do work.
You arrived with your decision on your face.
This relationship was over and launched to its end like a torpedo and I didn’t even get to turn my key. It felt like the most major of decisions in the whole entire world had been made without me.
I don’t think I cried until I got back to the car... I didn’t stop crying until the year ended.
I had to avoid this bomb sight of a lake bench for sometime after that. Take an alternative route, avert my eyes. I remember regretting having agreed to meet you there, this sacred, historical lake to me. After I stopped crying and the pills began to kick in (and I would leave my house) I would let? make? myself walk the path around the water most every day. As I would approach the hillscape to the bench I would look and I would see and I would remember. Sometimes I would cry, sometimes I would be angry, sometimes I would turn the music up. I would just glare at that bench and wonder and replay. The bench became an icon I fixated upon... I dreaded it’s eye contact and yet it fueled me.
It’s now November again and the city has been kind enough to pay special attention to that patch of land. The bushes have been trimmed out, leaves collected, weeds pulled and wouldn’t you know... benches utterly rearranged? replaced? reset?
I couldn’t tell you which one was which or where that one is. It’s just no longer there. There’s no green, metal reminder facing north, half shaded and chilly anymore.
I walk there now with our daughter. Sometime she sleeps, sometimes she coos at the birds, and often people stop us to tell me how beautiful she is. Especially the old people...always the old people.
I’ve walked that circle more times than I can count to my life. I’ve walked that circle most of those times in the last year. I’ve walked to breathe and think, I’ve walked to isolate and stew, I’ve walked alone and with friends. I’ve walked to sweat and shrink. Nugget and I just finished a Saturday stroll come to mention it and I’ve lost all the baby weight and then some.
I feel great. Renewed. I feel lighter and less heavy, like a great many weights have been lifted.
Insert cliche “dropped dead weight of 180 lb boyfriend” line here.
Come on, 2019.
I am ready for ya.
It's 9:30 in the morning and I just pounded a beer.
For the first time in what feels like ages I'm home alone. Mom is out running an errand, I took Wyatt to school, Dotty to FOB's, Brother is at work as always... and it's just me.
Having to see FOB at 9am on Tuesday mornings makes me want to drink.
Makes me want to feel less.
Makes me angry.
Makes me remember.
We're also creeping up on a year dump-iverssary of preggo Mallory and lots of feelings are being trudged up.
Feelings that make me want to pound a beer at 9:30am at home because it's better than stopping by Shea's for whiskey and shenanigans I can't afford.
I want to dance.
It's 10:15 in the morning and I just cracked another beer.
I feel like acting out.
I feel like being irresponsible.
I feel like singing.
I feel like screaming.
I want a brief reprieve from accountability.
I want some recklessness.
I want loud music and cleavage and lipstick and posture.
I want a red dress and dim lights and musk.
I want toothy grins and glitter and glamor and sound.
It's 11:30 in the morning and I miss my daughter and her little hands gripping the handle of her car seat.
It's 11:30 in the morning and I'm grateful for my life as is, untrapped trying to make happy the unhappy.
It's 11:30 in the morning and I need a nap.
Mallory Kate is a blogger, artist, single mom and funny girl outta Nevada.
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